Carol Ann Duffy's Anne Hathaway
Before I read Carol Ann Duffy's sonnet about Anne Hathaway I had always just associated the name with a famous cottage somewhere in Stratford! Duffy takes the association and privileges a new encounter with Shakespeare's partner that is triumphantly tender, ecstatically sexual, and creatively brilliant.
For the governing conceit that Shakespeare left his wife and lover the 'second best' rather than the 'best bed' in his will because the second best had a history and story that transcended any such hierachical terminology steers us through a sonnet that celebrates procreation in every sense!
'The bed we loved in was a spinning world..'
How many of us could claim that?! Communion is flow! Sexual connection is transcendence. The 'play 'on 'world' reveals the universality of Shakespeare's fiction; their passionate personal relationship-with its own magical territory; the Globe Theatre itself and even Shakespeare's immortal fame. It takes the ordinary and renders it extraordinary, mirroring creativity's capacity to transform: the very alchemy of the word!
The line runs on listing the magical places of Shakespeare's plays, suggesting that these places are also 'sourced' originally on the body of Anne Hathaway. Her body is his text; the origin of all inspiration. Once again Duffy uses her 'pearls' to suggest sexuality and pleasure. We are in the faery regions of The Tempest whilst also making love! Orgasm allows or even generates creative 'flow'. Fact and fiction blur because life is fiction and fiction is fact: especially in the hands of Sahkespeare !
The palpable sensuality of Duffy's ventrioquised voice of Hathaway's tender remembrance of her partner's words, elides the body of memory, with the physical body; with the vast 'body' of Shakespeare's immortal words. Fusion is therefore on every level. Such was the power of their connection that he 'penned' sacred transcendent words through the ecstasy of their love making:
'A verb dancing in the centre of the noun..'
How gorgeous is this admission? It is visually expansive and erotically suggestive, and ( unlike most of the words in Duffy's World's wife) euphorically tender!
A bewitching 'what if' of syntactical alchemy! Once again it makes the reader smile at the hyperbolic incredibility of such enduring passion.
My favourite line in this poem is one of my favourite in Duffy:
'My living laughing love..'
The alliterative exclamation of vibrant, immortal passion communicates the ever present tenderness of such a truly enduring love! The fullness of the mouth's 'flow' in articulating this affection through the tenderest of present participles is pure joy. Who would not want such a love, such an intimacy?
Gets me every time!